I want to be close to the people who need me
Our day clinic, Mutituni Hope, is located in a small village. The clinic is composed of a waiting room, a consultation room, a small lab and pharmacy. Next door we have a hairdresser, a gas station, a mini market, a boutique and a busy bus stop.
That is what I really like: being in the heart of a community, close to the people who need me. The contact with these people, being part of their life and understanding their problems are the very reasons I started the clinic with Mark.
Mark and I go a long way, having first met working in the same
hospital. Later on, we started running into each other in other
hospitals, so we got to know each other really well. When a few years
later, I had the idea of opening my own clinic, I immediately thought of
Mark. We complement each other perfectly: I work with the patients and
Mark does the administration. Also, as he’s a better driver, he picks up
patients in case of an emergency.
We have three people working for us. They understand our place in the community, they share our values: always be there for the people. At the clinic, we perform minor operations, we do lab tests, we attend to pregnant women, and we are here to answer all kinds of questions that one could find difficult to ask other people, like questions about family planning.
Our clients love to watch TV
a business was risky. Mark and I saved around a hundred thousand
shilling (1000 dollars), but we needed a lot more before we could open
our own clinic. In 2015, I approached the Kenya Women Microfinance Bank
to finance our project and fortunately, I was granted a loan of two
hundred fifty thousand shilling (2500 dollars). When starting a small
business in Kenya, it’s not easy to get a loan and it is even less so
for women, so I was very happy to find a bank which targets us women
specifically. We used the money to renovate the building, and to buy
equipment and some medicine. We also had to pay for the necessary
licenses. And I can tell you that getting those was not easy. One of
them was our music licence, which we have to pay because of the
television in our waiting room. We find the monthly six thousand
shilling (60 dollars) outrageous, but pay it anyway, as our clients love
Of course Mark and I were worried during the first few months. Would the people trust us? Would they come to us? To our relief, people quickly started coming to our clinic, which allowed us to pay back our first loan on time and in full.
In 2017 we took another loan. This time we were more confident, and we lent twice as much for better equipment and more medicine. Keeping up with the monthly instalments is harder this time around, however, especially considering changes in the political situation and the drop in the economy. This means that we are not growing as much or as fast as we had hoped we would. Still, we remain positive and stay focused.
Far from ideal
days are very long. One of us has to be present in the clinic from
eight in the morning till late in the evening, seven days a week. This
means we don’t often see our family. Mark has two children and so have
I, but they have all accepted the situation. They know we work hard to
give them a better future.
At the moment, we don’t have our own ambulance, and we don’t have any wards. This means that when people need to stay overnight, we have to take them to Machakos, the regional capital. This is usually a challenge, as the patients may not be up to a long ride. Often, they also find it difficult to trust these strange doctors, wanting to be treated by us. It also means that we have to brief the doctor on the medical history and situation of the patient. It’s far from ideal.
Our dream therefore is, first, to have an ambulance, and, eventually, have the facilities to be an actual hospital where patients can be admitted overnight and treated by familiar faces without the ordeal of a bumpy and potentially dangerous ride.
It’s all a matter of trust
However, we can’t realise this dream without another loan. So, in the near future, we will go to our bank again. Usually, to get a loan for a major project, you need sufficient collateral. But I hope they trust us enough to accept what we have to offer.
Like with our patients, it’s all a matter of trust.
Take for example this cheque book that I received from the bank. At first, our suppliers didn’t accept cheques. But when they realised that our word was good, and they actually received their money, they started trusting this new payment method. I’m very proud we were among the first to receive these cheque books from the bank.
I’m sure we will succeed; Mark and I make a great team. Every day I feel invigorated when I see people coming to our clinic because we can help them.
We feel most successful when patients come to us to thank us for what we did, for making them better, for giving them hope.
Beatrice Nkunku works in Mutituni Hope, named after the village where it is located, about 70 kilometres southeast of the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Beatrice is a mother of two. She dreams of having her own hospital and ambulance.
invested 5 million dollars of equity in REGMIFA, a regional MSME fund
for sub-Saharan Africa, and 3.5 million dollars in equity and debt to
the Rural Impulse Fund (RIF), an investment fund for rural
REGMIFA and RIF support financial institutions like the Kenya Women Microfinance Bank (KWFT) which served Beatrice so well. The bank has over 800,000 clients. Eighty percent of KWFT’s operations are in rural areas where the majority of Kenyans live.
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